I’ve Got Mail: Sleepless in Emeryville

Levy StoryCreative nonfiction, sometimes called narrative nonfiction, is my genre of choice. Actually, it’s more of a content description than a genre – to me it simply means using creative writing techniques such as scenes and dialogue and description to tell a true story. Storytelling is what it’s all about, spinning a good yarn that happens to be factual. That true story might be a biography, or a memoir, or about a subject such as a racehorse or heart transplants or orchids. When I began writing John Levy’s autobiography, I knew that it would never be a bestseller. I wanted to preserve John’s legacy as a manager who believed in building an artist’s career for the long-run (as opposed to today’s “one hit wonders”) and to give jazz fans an entertaining look behind the scenes. With one thousand or so copies sold over the last few years, the book continues to sell, a few at a time, here and there, and we occassionally get a piece or two of fan mail like this one received last Friday:

I finally received my copy of Men, Women and Girl Singers on Tuesday. I ordered it through Borders Books here in Emeryville. They got it for me within one week which was really fast.

I can’t put it down…last night I read through to daybreak… Thank God I’m on vacation this week…I’m usually up for work at 5 am. I simply could not stop reading… you are a good storyteller. The story about Otis Wilson tickled me to near ’bout death. I could not contain myself as I visualized it.

This is very interesting and entertaining reading…thanks for writing and sharing this era.

Here’s the Otis Wilson story mentioned by our correspondent:

Joe Williams used to tell my favorite story about Art Tatum and a policeman named Otis Wilson, with whom I went to school. Otis became a policeman working nights in this real tough neighborhood. When he got off work he used to come by the after hours joint and listen to the music. One morning when Tatum was playing, some drunk started up the jukebox. According to Joe, “Otis Wilson grabbed this cat and beat him all the way down the steps and put him in jail. It was like he’d broke the law.”

When the paddy wagon came and the white cops asked what the man had done, Otis said, “He disturbed the peace. Book him for disturbing the peace.”

You can read more about John, and the book, on his website.